Drive along the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway north of Grand Marais and you'll pass a sign marking the Laurentian Divide. This geographical line follows the height of land where water flows south and east to Lake Superior and the Great Lakes in one direction and north to Hudson's Bay in the other. The landscape is laced with thousands of lakes and streams that have long served as the wilderness highways of the vast boreal forest. Native people, explorers, fur traders and modern adventurers have paddled these waters. To avoid rapids or to go from one lake to the next, they carried their canoes across shaded paths called portages.
The waters of eastern North America originate here. Fed by the snows of long winters and sudden, summer rainstorms, the lakes are pure and clean, supporting a palette of native fish ranging from the tasty walleye to the ancient lake sturgeon. Along the lakeshores wander the creatures of the North: gray wolves, moose, beavers and black bears. On summer evenings the wild calls of common loons echo over the waters, while in winter croaking ravens punctuate the frozen stillness. In spite of more than three hundred years of man’s wrestling with Nature to reap its bounty using the steel trap, the crosscut saw and the miner’s pick, here in the Heart of the Continent, the wilderness endures.
-Shawn Perich, publisher, Northern Wilds magazine
“Canoe country wilderness is, for me, an intimate experience. One lake at a time. One portage at a time. It’s like turning the pages of a good book. There’s something special on each one.
This wilderness pushes me. It makes me want to take just one more portage, and paddle around just one more point to see what’s there. Will it be a moose? A grand stand of ancient white pines? A gorgeous campsite that once felt the feet of the Ojibwe or the Voyageurs?
Whatever it reveals will be enough. The Heart of the Continent is like that.”
-Michael Furtman, author
“The best way to experience Lake Superior is to be right out on it. When paddling upon the lake, it’s as if there are no trails but everything is open. The freedom exists to go wherever you wish. This island or that, over a shoal, back to see that rock, cross over there, and spend time in those waves – the possibilities are endless.”
-Darrell Makin, lecturer, and Zack Kruzins, outdoor guide